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If I Really Listened to and Followed . . . Hebrews 12 —

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2021 in Hebrews 12

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 4)

I just can’t do it! It’s impossible for me. I just cave in — and break out laughing.

I’m talking about having a staring contest with my eight-year-old grandson Isaac. He is a child of great humor, contagious laughter, and — that’s the problem. I never win in a staring contest with him. Within a few seconds of gazing into his blue eyes, seeing his determined-not-to-laugh expression on his face, I collapse in laughter. And he is, once again, victorious.

Staring — sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s creepy. But it’s a use of our eyes that can show us that our FOCUS is very important.

What are you staring at? If we “fix” our eyes on Jesus, we discover that He too was a man of laughter. But He was — and is — so much more . . .

Let us think one more day about this amazing text in Hebrews 12. There we read —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We have learned from this passage that we are in a race. A race which has been “marked out for us.” And we are to run that race, stripped down from everything that hinders us and turning down every sin that so easily entangles us. We are to run with perseverance, for we are running towards our Savior who is also the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

How did He run His race? We read that “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (v. 2). JOY?! Yes, this One “born to die” did so willingly, with joy. The cross was not His joy. He “endured” the cross. He “scorned its shame.” His dying for sinners was not His joy. Although the text does not specifically say so, I would argue that the joy that was “set before Him” was His pleasing His Father by providing a righteous forgiveness for all who would put their faith in Him.

Then the writer to the Hebrews challenges us to “consider him who endured such opposition from sinners . . .” This One who “endured the cross” also “endured” human opposition in His mission to save sinners.

If you and I “consider” Him as we should, what ought to be the result? The result will be that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3). Weariness and discouragement wait to invade the life and heart of the Jesus-follower who gets his or her eyes off Jesus. And that’s why we need FOCUS. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on January 3, 2020 in focus

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 3)

“Teacher eyes.” That’s what you call them. A concentrated stare that will melt the face of any pre-teen or teenager who dares to look into those laser-focused eyes.

My wife has “teacher eyes.” They have come in very handy during her years of being a high school teacher. And, sometimes, when I’ve done something bad, she turns those eyes on me and . . .

There are a variety of words we use when we are talking about our eyes’ doing what they are supposed to do: stare, bore into, glance, dart, peek, gaze, etc.

We are thinking one more day about this amazing text in Hebrews 12. There we read —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

By faith we see this “great cloud of witnesses” who have predeceased us. We observe ourselves and “throw off everything that hinders” us in this race which is “marked out for us.” We focus our eyes on the life-track before us and we determine to “run with perseverance” that race. And we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

But wait! Are we talking about real objects, real people that can be seen with our physical eyes? No. That “great cloud of witnesses” is presently with the Lord Jesus. But, by faith, we recognize their example in walking by faith and not by sight! We don’t physically remove clothing (strip down) to run our race. This is a metaphor for getting serious about living out the Christian life God has purposed for us. And we don’t literally see a race track with lines and other racers. And, sadly, we don’t actually see our Savior at the end of the track urging us on.

Unless we understand that “fixing our eyes on Jesus” means living by faith. It means seeing those things that are eternal but are not presently visible to our human eyes. It means turning our gaze from the many enticing sights of the world to consciously directing our attention to the “pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

It is certainly counter-intuitive to speak of fixing our eyes on something or Someone we cannot actually see. But the term “see” is often used, not of physical vision, but of careful consideration, determined concentration, focused attention. And that’s what we are to give to the Lord Jesus.

And our looking to and at Him reminds us of His great sacrifice for us. Amazingly the writer to the Hebrews describes Christ’s atoning mission as “the JOY set before him.” We will think about that JOY in our next post. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on January 1, 2020 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 2)

When I was in high school my best friend Ronnie had a pair of Buddy Holly black horn rim glasses. They looked so cool. I asked him one day if I could wear his glasses at school and he said yes.

I’m not sure how to describe the effect those glasses had on me that day, but “babe magnet” would not be an exaggeration. I got more attention from the ladies that day than all my years of tricks on the elementary school’s jungle gym combined.

So, I went home (after giving Ronnie his glasses back) and said, “Mom, I think I need glasses!” She said, “Let’s go get your eyes examined this afternoon.”

I knew I was going to be in big trouble. I knew the eye doctor would do his exam (with an eye chart I hadn’t memorized) and say to my Mom, “Mrs. Dixon. Your son’s eyes are perfect. I suspect he wants glasses as a kind of, how should I say this?, babe magnet.”

Instead, he comes out of the exam room and says, “Mrs. Dixon, I’ve completed your son’s examination — and he not only needs glasses. He needs to wear them all the time.”

I immediately drew the conclusion: There is a God in heaven and He loves me!

In this series of posts we are working on the topic of focusing our eyes on the Lord Jesus. And, yes, these posts are the rough beginning of a new book. We want to think through the issue of consciously directing our attention to the Savior in a world that is blind, or near-sighted, or deliberately closing its eyes to the gospel.

Let’s think a bit more about the passage we quoted in our first post — Hebrews 12 —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We are in a race. We are to run that race unhindered, throwing off everything that will slow us down or entangle us. We are to run that race with perseverance. And that race is not some haphazard dash through the woods. It is a race that has been “marked out for us” (v. 1).

But what are we do with our eyes? We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (v. 2). Fixing one’s eyes is the idea of looking away from one thing and at another. We are to concentrate our gaze on Jesus.

Our FOCUS is to be on the Lord Jesus. We are not tourists who are admiring the passing scenery as we run. Nor are we to look behind us at the other runners. We are to “fix” our eyes on Jesus who has gone before us. Who waits for us.

Today’s Challenge: Ask yourself, “Am I fixing my eyes on Jesus as I seek to run the race He has marked out for me? Or is my attention on the passing scenery or on other runners? In our next post we ask how we might sharpen our FOCUS on the Savior. (to be continued)


 


 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in vision

 

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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 1)

When I was in elementary school, I remember getting an eye exam once a year. For some inexplicable reason, I decided to memorize the eye-chart! So I passed the eye test with flying colors and didn’t find out until high school that I really needed glasses!

In this series of posts we are working on the topic of focusing our eyes on the Lord Jesus. And, yes, these posts are the rough beginning of a new book. We want to think through the issue of consciously directing our attention to the Savior in a world that is blind, or near-sighted, or deliberately closing its eyes to the gospel.

The Word of God has much to say about sight and vision and blindness. For example, we read in Hebrews 12 —

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

“Fix” in this passage comes from a word meaning “to look away from one thing and at another,” “to look away from one thing so as to see another,” or “to concentrate one’s gaze upon.” The same verb is used in Philippians 2 where Paul writes: “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.”

In the South we use the word “fix” in a strange way. We might say, “I’m fixing to go to town” Or, “I’m fixing to fix the fix I’m in” (just kidding about that second example). “Fix” in Southern English means “about to.” That’s not the meaning here in Hebrews 12.

Usually the word “fix” means to repair something. Our vision, our spiritual eyesight, certainly stands in need of repair, does it not? But that’s also not the meaning of “fix” in Hebrews 12.

The meaning in Hebrews 12 is FOCUS. We take account of that “great cloud of witnesses” that has come before us, we recognize everything that hinders us in wholeheartedly following Christ, and we are start running in the race He has set out for us!

In our next post we will unpack a bit more of what Hebrews 12 calls us to. But for today, may I ask you, are you FOCUSING on the Lord Jesus, longing to see Him as He really is, and to obey Him in the race of life? (to be continued).

 


 


 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in focus

 

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“Continuing the Race”: A Message for the Supporters of Dayspring Bible Camp Part 5

On August 3-5 I will be doing a “Theology Matters” retreat with a group of young people at Dayspring Bible Camp in Ironton, Mo (here‘s their website).  The topic, “Unlike Jesus,” will focus on the issue of friendship evangelism and how we are often not friends of sinners like Jesus was.

But I also get to address the supporters of the camp who have chosen the topic “Continue the Race” for their celebration. So, in these posts, we are thinking about the passages of Scripture that use the running metaphor. We’ve seen that God calls us into the race (from Phil. 3:14),that we have been challenged to train for the race (from I Tim. 4:7-8), and that training for this race requires strict self-control (from I Cor. 9:25).  We’ve also noticed that running this race requires obeying certain rules (from 2 Tim. 2:5).

Let’s move to our fifth and final passage which is found in I Corinthians 9:24 and in Hebrews 12:1-2 and it is that —

V. There Is a Prize to Be Won for Running This Race! (I Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1-2)

We read in I Corinthians 9 “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  We then read in Hebrews 12 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Just a few comments about these two passages:

1.  We are running, not just to get a participation trophy, but the prize! (I Cor. 9).

2.   We are often our own worst enemies in the race! (we cling to things that hinder us and stay entangled in sins that slow us down) (Heb. 12).

3.  We don’t determine our race track or course — that has been laid out for us! (Heb. 12).

4.  We don’t look behind us or at the other runners, but at Jesus as our goal (Heb. 12).

5.  We look to Him as our example, our pioneer, our perfecter, our prize! (Heb. 12).  As John Piper puts it, God is the gospel!

6.  We experience a variety of emotions during this race — endurance, scorn, shame, and . . . joy! (Heb. 12).

How’s your race going?  Don’t give up!  Keep your eyes on the prize — Jesus Himself!

 

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2018 in race

 

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Some Thoughts on . . . JOY! (Part 2 of 2)

In part 1 of this post on JOY I mentioned that I am presently serving as the part-time teaching pastor at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, Georgia.  These last six months since losing my seminary position have been so encouraging to me.   If interested, you can find my sermons on their website:  http://crossroadschurchinaugusta.com/

We’re thinking a bit on the topic of JOY.  The world needs to see JOYFUL followers of Jesus!  This doesn’t mean that we don’t weep or mourn or grieve.  But they see tangible peace and contentment in our lives regardless of the circumstances.screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-31-40-am

But there are JOY-KILLERS all around.  Some that come to my mind are:  constant complaining, the overbusyness of life, boredom, apathy toward those who are outside of Christ, mediocre church services, financial challenges, family tensions, etc.  [I’ll bet you can add to my list if you wanted to!]

Two passages come to mind as I think about my need to

What a JOY-KILLER looks like!

What a JOY-KILLER looks like!

stay JOYFUL in Him.  In I Peter 1 the Apostle writes, “8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Our JOY is not based on sight (we don’t see Him . . . yet!).  Our love is based on faith in the Lord and what He has done for us.  And we are filled with an “inexpressible and glorious JOY”!  Why?  Because we are receiving the salvation of our souls!  For those who see no need for the “salvation of their souls” such JOY is inaccessible!

The second text that comes to mind is Hebrews 12 where we read: “12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Here we learn about the Lord’s JOY!  He endured the cross “for the JOY set before Him”!  That is a divine mystery, my friends.  But at the very least we can say He thought it completely worthwhile to pay for your sins and mine — and He looked forward to the JOY of doing the Father’s will and saving our souls!

Remind me again?  What was it that was bringing you down?

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in joy

 

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